New data from the Mental Health Foundation reveals:
- 34% of adults in Northern Ireland felt anxious in the last month about the personal financial situation, this rises to 57% among young people aged 18-24
- 25% of adults expressed worry about being able to heat their home in the next few months
- 21% of adults are worried about paying the bills
- 19% had seen family and friends less often due to lack of money
The Mental Health Foundation is issuing a stark warning about the mental health impacts of the cost-of-living crisis, as more than a third of adults in Northern Ireland felt anxious about their personal finances in the past month. This proportion rises to more than half (57%) for young people aged 18-24.
With the cost-of-living crisis continuing, the charity is concerned about the long-term mental health impacts of financial strain experienced by many across Northern Ireland. The poll carried out among more than 3000 adults in Northern Ireland by Lucid Talk between 27 and 30 October also found that almost one in five people (19%) had seen family and friends less often due to lack of money. For young people aged 18-24, this rises to almost one-third (32%). This is particularly concerning to the Mental Health Foundation as maintaining meaningful connections and relationships with people we care about is important to have good mental health.
As well as being more likely to feel anxious, younger people aged 18-24 are more than twice as likely to report feeling sad (28% v 12% general population) or hopeless (18% v 8% general population) about the financial situation.
Looking ahead, a quarter of all adults (25%) expressed worry about being able to heat their home in the next few months, while more than one in five (21%) are worried about paying the bills. With Christmas on the horizon, more than one in five (21%) are worried about being able to afford family days out, entertainment, leisure and gifts.
Karen Hall, Head of Northern Ireland at Mental Health Foundation, said: “We all feel anxious or worried from time to time, and it’s a normal response to challenging situations. However, when feelings of anxiety last for a long period of time, or to the point that it's interfering with people’s lives, it can lead to people developing mental health problems. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis is putting immense pressure on people and families across Northern Ireland, particularly younger people who are more likely to report feeling anxious, sad, or hopeless.
“As well as short-term support for people, we need longer-term solutions to ensure people have an income that will at least cover the basics. Many people are still struggling to make ends meet. We need a stable government in Northern Ireland that will work to eradicate poverty and recognise that poverty and financial stress is a driver of poor mental health.
“Many charities working on the front line are seeing increased demand whilst experiencing cuts to their funding. We need sustainable funding for the organisations working on the front line to support people experiencing financial distress and dealing with the fallout of years of austerity and the pandemic.
“Good mental health should be the measure of a thriving society, and we need that goal to drive our governments’ decisions.”
Fellow mental health charity, the Samaritans, echo the Mental Health Foundation’s concerns as around 10 per cent of calls from first-time callers in recent months were related to personal finance worries.
Ellen Finlay, Policy & Development Manager at the Samaritans in Northern Ireland, explains: “Samaritans volunteers currently answer around 400 calls for help a day, on average, from people who are worried about their finances or unemployment. In June, almost 1 in 10 calls for help from first-time callers were about finance or unemployment concerns. We’re asking governments across the UK and Ireland to ensure adequate support for people on the lowest incomes, who are more at risk of suicide.
With costs rising, it is likely that more people will be seeking support with their finances, including for unmanageable debt. It is as important now as it has ever been that people who are seeking that support, are also offered help with their mental health, and vice versa.
The current pressures on household finances mean that there has never been a more pressing time for a cross-government approach which acknowledges suicide as an issue of socioeconomic inequality.”
For information about support available to people who are struggling with money worries, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk/cost-of-living
Polling was carried out online from 1pm 27th October to 10pm 30th October 2023, using the established LucidTalk Northern Ireland (NI) online opinion panel (15,843 members), which is balanced to be demographically representative of Northern Ireland (NI). 3,046 full responses were received, and these were then authenticated, audited, weighted, and modelled, into a 1,044 NI representative response data-set, which was used for analysis in terms of the final results. Weighting was carried out by age, gender, occupation, socio-economic group, NI residence area, and religious affiliation, and several other related demographics, in order to produce a robust Northern Ireland representative opinion sample.
All results are accurate in terms of being NI representative to within an error of +/-2.3% at 95% confidence.
LucidTalk is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its regulations. LucidTalk is the only NI (and Ireland) based polling and market research company who is a member of the British Polling Council.